The Cleveland Cavaliers dominated the depleted Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.
The Cavs likely will face another short-handed team when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.
Cleveland overcame COVID-19 absences of its own to beat the Raptors — who were missing 10 players due to COVID — 144-99 in Cleveland.
Toronto was missing its top five scorers, all of whom were in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Raptors had just four players from their regular roster available.
Cleveland gained its most lopsided victory of the season despite having seven players in the health and safety protocols, including Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
“We’re fortunate that up and down our roster, we have guys that when we put them in the game, they can contribute,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
Kevin Love, making his first start of the season, and Darius Garland scored 22 points each, and Lauri Markkanen added 20 to lead six Cleveland scorers in double figures.
The Cavaliers, who tied a franchise record by scoring 46 points in the third quarter on Sunday, finished with 39 assists.
“We’re lucky to be in this position where we’ve got such a good thing going on,” Markkanen said. “We play hard and we play unselfish basketball. Once we brought the energy we needed, the floodgates just kind of opened up after that.”
Cleveland’s past 11 wins have come by at least 10 points, and the Cavs lead the Eastern Conference with 15 double-digit victories.
The Pelicans saw their season-best four-game winning streak end when they lost at Oklahoma City 117-112 on Sunday.
The Pelicans’ second-leading scorer, Jonas Valanciunas (non-COVID illness), and No. 4 Nickeil Alexander-Walker (COVID) missed their second consecutive game and leading scorer Brandon Ingram left the game for good with 3:17 left in the first quarter because of a sore Achilles.
“I just saw him kind of limping and he was wincing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Ingram, who was scoreless after missing all three of his shots in nearly nine minutes. “I asked him if he was OK. He asked for a sub. So we got him out right away.”
New Orleans fell behind the Thunder 17-3 but took a one-point lead with about eight minutes remaining before Oklahoma City regained control.
“This is a resilient group,” Green said. “We went through (adversity) early in the season. This is no different. We have to continue to push forward, have to continue to compete like we did (against the Thunder). Our guys know we can win games like this. We’ll stay together and regroup.”
Josh Hart led New Orleans with 29 points and 10 rebounds in his third consecutive 20-point game. Garrett Temple, who started the second half in Ingram’s place, scored 22 points.
“His leadership all season has been phenomenal,” Green said of Hart. “Tonight was another step in that direction. He’s playing at an extremely high level, and we’re going to need him to continue on that trend.”
It’s unclear if Ingram, Valanciunas or Alexander-Walker will be available against the Cavaliers.
“Hopefully we’ll have one or two of those guys back next game,” Hart said. “We battled and stayed in it, but the bodies were down.”
–Field Level Media